Making a change

Want to move into a career that is focused on supporting people and communities in a meaningful way?

After six years working as a high school teacher, Kit O’Flaherty was searching for just that.

JCU alumni Kit O'Flaherty covered in paint and wearing a hat.

Kit was looking to return to study and re-skill in a career that would allow them to work in a rewarding supportive role.

They found what they were looking for with JCU's Master of Guidance and Counselling.

“My original plan was speech pathology, but friends suggested trying out guidance and counselling since I wanted to move to a more of a support role,” Kit says. This advice, and the opportunities offered by JCU led them to enrol, completing the course in 2023.

The Master of Guidance and Counselling is a flexible course, which can be studied online, in block mode or by limited attendance. Studying Guidance and Counselling prepares students to work with a range of clients, as they develop advanced counselling skills, including ethical and diversity considerations, and contemporary approaches.

Kit is now qualified to work as a school guidance officer or professional counsellor. Thanks to the real world experiences they gained through professional placement opportunities, they are equipped to take on an array of opportunities. Whichever career path Kit now pursues, they possess the guidance and counselling techniques and skills required to educate and empower future clients.

Read on to discover more about Kit's practical experience and hands-on learning within the Master of Guidance and Counselling:

The latter part of 2023 saw Kit tackle guidance and counselling placements in Queensland’s tropical north and the outback.

Kit spent the latter part of their Master of Guidance and Counselling completing valuable placements at One Vision Equestrian in Mossman and at Mount Isa and Cloncurry state schools. Kit says the days were filled with variety. They found  the transition to guidance and counselling from teaching was relatively seamless thanks to their education background.

“Working as a school counsellor makes it an easier transition thanks to my teaching background, but it's by no means the only option.”

“Every week, after work or bright and early on the weekends, we would go out in the paddock to feed, brush, and saddle up horses and get ready for the students.

“Most NDIS clients that I have worked with are on the autism spectrum and through equine therapy they are learning emotional regulation. Some are suffering from anxiety and spending time with horses helps such students to calm down and find time to sit with their emotions and process them."

Kit says horses are incredibly receptive to human emotions and can be great teachers when it comes to understanding feelings.

“Under my supervisor's watchful eye, I taught lessons while going through breathing exercises and ways to be more mindful of one's body - horses notice every little thing we do and respond to it,” Kit says.

For their school placements, Kit visited Mount Isa Central State School, Sunset State School, and Cloncurry State School P-12.

“Everyone is very strapped for services. For most support services you have to go to Townsville or Brisbane. Only a very few service the west, and when they do, it's infrequent,” Kit says.

“Guidance officers, youth workers, therapists, psychologists - these services are sought after in and out of the school community."

Kit is a nature lover and regular visitor to the local rainforests in the tropical north. But says the beauty of the Queensland outback was truly special.

“Cloncurry and Mount Isa were my first foray into the proper outback. Life is both very different out west and kind of the same. Small, tight-knit communities, where everyone knows everyone,” Kit says.

“I was used to being among nature, but both Mount Isa and Cloncurry are different to Far North Queensland; the look of the red dirt and smell of Aussie local flora is something else.

“I took the opportunity to explore the outback and visit as many walking trails as possible – I can definitely recommend Chinaman Creek Dam."

The Master of Guidance and Counselling empowers students to learn to identify and design solutions for issues in a range of professional guidance and counselling practice contexts.

With eight core subjects and a choice of electives that can be aligned to career aspirations, when you study Guidance and Counselling and other postgraduate degrees with JCU, you can craft your study and hands-on learning experiences to reflect your career aspirations.

“Overall, I had an amazing prac experience, and can't wait to delve into the depth of the job that is guidance and counselling,” Kit says.

“Guidance and counselling as a career is really what you make of it. Counselling is versatile and can be conducted in many different ways, including, as I have experienced, on horseback.

“Other pathways involve working in a private practice or in a clinical setting so I don't feel like choosing to study guidance and counselling locks you in a predetermined position.

“I'm currently applying to a variety of roles across the state. I'm hoping to secure a position in FNQ to stay connected to the region, but I'm open to possible travel opportunities as well.”

Thinking of making a career change? Contact us today

If you're looking for a new direction, postgraduate study could be for you. JCU has a range of courses designed to advance your opportunities and boost your skillset. Explore what's on offer today or contact us to find out more.